It’s going to be a really rich Christmas for exhibition, Sony and Marvel as Spider-Man: No Way Home barrels toward potentially the third-best second weekend ever with around $143M over the long Christmas period of Dec. 24-27.
Already, through four days, the Jon Watts MCU title counts $297.2M in the U.S. and Canada, 3% ahead of December 2015’s Star Wars: Force Awakens over the same frame.
But what does this spell for other major studios with big event movies? While it’s a question always asked during pre-pandemic Christmas periods whenever a single franchise movie sucks up the oxygen, it’s a more dire situation during a time when many wonder if Omicron will truly take its toll at the year-end domestic box office. Will Spider-Man: No Way Home be the only draw on the marquee, a repeat of Christmas 2015 when Star Wars: Force Awakens ruled and only one movie clicked past $100M (that being the Paramount Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy, Daddy’s Home)?
Even though Christmas in the pre-pandemic era is a time when people can see as many as four movies between the holiday and New Year’s weekend, many are asking whether adults will return to the cinema after Christmas in similar fashion to how they did for MGM/UAR’s House of Gucci over Thanksgiving. Movies such as Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley ($3.1M) and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story ($18.9M domestic) are starving for business, with the latter holding its 2,800 theaters for nearly two more weeks.
While Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the big Christmas title in 2017, that film was pacing behind Force Awakens by 21% when comparing the span of time between their opening days and Dec. 31. That gap allowed three other tentpoles to break through to huge grosses: Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($404.5M), The Greatest Showman ($174.3M) and Pitch Perfect 3 ($104.9M).
Starting on Wednesday, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s The Matrix: Resurrections, Illumination/Universal’s Sing 2, and 20th Century Studios/Disney’s period action movie The King’s Man look to become their own events in the shadow of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and it’s possible two of the three titles will be exactly that in the long run. With Christmas falling on Saturday, Friday will be a slower day at the box office due to many breaking for Christmas Eve at night. Debuting on Christmas Day is the Denzel Washington-directed Sony/Bron movie A Journal for Jordan aimed at adults, and Lionsgate’s biopic American Underdog, aimed at families and faith-based moviegoers.
Here’s how it all breaks down:
Warner Bros., which is not holding previews for Matrix Resurrections tonight, is expecting $40M over Wednesday-Sunday for the Lana Wachowski-directed R-rated sequel/reboot, which she also co-wrote and produced. Tracking has it much higher in the $60M range, possibly $70M, over Wednesday-to-Monday at 3,550 theaters (essentially 5,000 screens). Matrix Resurrections will be sharing Imax with Spider-Man: No Way Home over the holiday, which will help the movie greatly; the 1999 original was just re-released in Imax for the first time. Despite Matrix being the final title for Warner Bros. in its pandemic day-and-date theatrical and HBO Max 2021 plan, the studio has opened these tentpoles — i.e. Godzilla vs. Kong ($48.1M five-day, $100.5M domestic) and Dune ($41M, $106.9M) — to solid numbers and ultimate legs despite their availability in the home. (We never said that the model works; obviously these movies could have made much more stateside.) Don’t be shocked if Wachowski’s latest reps the best opening of the year for a Warner Bros/HBO Max title over three days. Even if the sequel flies on the low end, it’s manna from heaven for the Burbank studio after the disastrous results of last Christmas’ Wonder Woman 1984 ($16.7M opening, $46.5M domestic), given how a majority of movie theaters, including NYC and LA, were still closed due to Covid. Through three movies, the last title being 18 years ago, the Matrix franchise counts more than $1.6 billion from the global box office.
Currently, Matrix Resurrections is 67% fresh off 69 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The sequel tees off with Keanu Reeves’ Mr. Anderson coming off the successful, yet idle, life as the videogame programmer of the Matrix. He meets a woman (Carrie-Anne Moss) who seems very familiar to him, but she’s married with kids (um, Trinity, by chance?). Guys in black suits are after him again, and a different version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II taking over from Laurence Fishburne) is here to the save the day with red pills that will turn Mr. Anderson back into Neo again. Starting Wednesday, Matrix Resurrections is on HBO Max for 31 days in sync with theatrical, before becoming exclusive to cinemas in its second month before entering home windows.
Some industry stats show that older women are slow to return to movie theaters during the pandemic, but arguably that’s not true of moms looking to get the kids out of the house. Sing 2 is hoping to raise the bar on the openings for family movies at 3,900 theaters with a $40M-$50M start over six days. Uni held previews over Black Friday weekend and siphoned an estimated $1.5M off of Disney’s Encanto, money that will be rolled into Sing 2‘s total. To date, over three days, Warner Bros.’ Space Jam: A New Legacy holds the best 2021 opening for an animated movie at $31M (granted, a live-action hybrid).
The first Sing opened on a Wednesday during the Christmas 2016 frame, when Star Wars: Rogue One was the monolith movie, and writer-director Garth Jennings’ cartoon title earned $55.8M over five days and $75.5M over six days for a final domestic B.O. of $270.3M. Jennings is back doing double duty for the sequel.
Sing 2, at 64% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes from 45 reviews, finds Buster (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) launching a new musical at the Crystal Tower Theater in glamorous Redshore City (very reminiscent of Las Vegas). And while he’s got the whole gang back together — read Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson), earnest Johnny (Taron Egerton), shy Meena (Tori Kelly) and provocateur Gunter (Emmy nominee Nick Kroll) — he’s promised a famous singer for the show, Clay (Bono), which he’s unlikely to deliver, much to the anger of Crystal’s ruthless mogul Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale).
The King’s Man is a prequel to the famed 20th Century Studios spy series starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Channing Tatum. Ralph Fiennes stars in this installment, which is set during the early years of the 20th century, when the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal plotting a war to wipe out millions. Matthew Vaughn returns as director, writer and producer. Disney is hoping for $15M over five days and $19M over six, but industry projections are higher at $20M over six days at 3,100 theaters. Previews start at 4 p.m. today. The pre-pandemic three-day openings for Kingsman: The Secret Service was $36.2M in February 2014 and $39M for Kingsman: The Golden Circle in September 2017. Reviews aren’t great for The King’s Man at 45% Rotten, currently the lowest-reviewed of the three movies. The Kingsman franchise counts $825.2M global to date.
Given their Saturday-Sunday play, Sony’s A Journal for Jordan and Lionsgate/Kingdom Story Company’s American Underdog both are expected to land in the single-digit-millions range for both their two-day and Saturday-Monday spans.
American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story is looking to overindex in the flyover and red states. Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, the movie follows Zachary Levi as NFL MVP and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming a football star. Seventeen reviews have the pic at 94%. The preview crowd — which shelled out around $1M to see it, I hear — already gave American Underdog an A Cinemascore. Should the movie come in low at 2,700 theaters this weekend, Lionsgate is looking at the pic’s play as a marathon, not a sprint, over its 45-day theatrical window.
A Journal for Jordan is launching in 2,500 theaters and will hold previews on Christmas Eve Friday in 1,800 locations starting at 2 p.m.. In the Virgil Williams screenplay adapted from the Dana Canedy book, the pic follows 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan). Before he is killed in action in Baghdad, he authors a journal for his son intended to tell him how to live a decent life despite growing up without a father. Chanté Adams plays Canedy in the film. Eleven reviews have A Journal for Jordan at 45% Rotten. The movie cost before P&A $25M.
UAR/MGM will expand Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza from four screens in NYC and LA to 700 theaters nationwide. The movie, currently in its fourth week, has grossed $1.3M.
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